A sonogram or pregnancy ultrasound is a noninvasive test that makes use of high-frequency sound waves to generate a visual image of the uterus, placenta, and the unborn baby. Aside from these, this diagnostic can also visualize other pelvic organs. This test allows the analysis of valuable information about a pregnancy as well as the mother’s and the baby’s health.

The sound waves are transmitted through a device known as the transducer. The echoes detected through this device are recorded and transformed into images of the baby. This can help monitor the development of the fetus and determine if there are any birth defects and other potential problems.

There are different types of pregnancy ultrasound. In addition to the standard ultrasound, there are other more advanced ultrasounds like fetal echocardiography, 3D ultrasound, and 4D ultrasound. A fetal echocardiography produces images of the fetal heart in detail.

Most types of prenatal sonogram are performed using a gel as the conductive medium and a transducer. However, there is also another type of pregnancy ultrasound known as the transvaginal ultrasound, which makes use of a tubular probe that is inserted into the vaginal canal. This type of ultrasound produces a greatly enhanced image quality and this is ideally indicated early in pregnancy.

Preparing for a Pregnancy Ultrasound…

If the test is conducted early in pregnancy, you may need to have a full bladder during the procedure. It is recommended to drink at least two glasses of water an hour before the test is performed and make sure that you do not urinate before the scheduled scan.

During the scan, you will be instructed to lie down on the examination bed. An ultrasound technician or sinologist will apply a water based ultrasound gel over your abdomen.  This gel serves as a conductive medium which helps the sound waves travel properly. The transducer will then be used and placed on your abdomen. The technician will move the transducer around to capture images that will reflect on the ultrasound screen.

The transvaginal ultrasound, on the other hand, is performed if you are in the early stages of your pregnancy. For this ultrasound, a small probe is inserted into the vagina and this will capture the images, which will be reflected on the ultrasound screen. The regular ultrasound takes about 20 minutes to complete. However, a more detailed scan that makes use of special devices can last up to an hour or more.

Other Types of Pregnancy Ultrasound

More advanced ultrasound techniques are also made available. These techniques capture more detailed images. If there have been potential problems detected through the regular sonogram, a more detailed ultrasound may be indicated.

  • 3D Ultrasound – Unlike the traditional ultrasound, a 3D or three-dimensional ultrasound allows your health care provider to see the depth, width and height of the fetus and the pelvic organs. This type of ultrasound is indicated if there are any suspected problems during the pregnancy.
  • 4D Ultrasound – A four-dimensional ultrasound is also referred to as a dynamic 3D ultrasound. This type of ultrasound is able to create a moving video of the growing fetus inside the uterus. Moreover, this creates a better image of the baby’s movements and physical features.
  • Fetal Echocardiography – This type of ultrasound is usually performed if the fetus is suspected to have a congenital heart defect. This can capture the in-depth image of the heart of the fetus, measure its size and determine its shape and structure.

What Information Does A Pregnancy Ultrasound Provide?

There are various things that can be checked through a pregnancy ultrasound. Here are some of the things that a pregnancy ultrasound can identify:

  • Miscarriage, Ectopic and Molar Pregnancies. An ultrasound may be recommended at 6 to 9 weeks age of gestation to confirm the pregnancy. However, in other cases, this test may be indicated if there are suspicions of miscarriage, especially for those who may have experienced vaginal bleeding early in the pregnancy. Molar or ectopic pregnancy can also be identified through this test. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo attaches on the fallopian tubes. A molar pregnancy, on the other hand, is a type of pregnancy with an abnormal placenta and no viable fetus.
  • Baby’s Heartbeat. An ultrasound can check the heart beat of the developing fetus inside the uterus. The ultrasound technician will measure the heartbeat of the baby by counting the number of beats per minute. Through this, it can be determined if the baby has a normal heartbeat.
  • Baby’s Size, Physical Appearance, and Gender. An ultrasound can also measure the size of the baby in the uterus. The technician will measure the skull size and the sizes of the other parts of the baby. Through measuring the size of the baby, it can be determined if the baby’s size is appropriate for his or her fetal age. Since an ultrasound can produce images of the growing baby inside the uterus, this test can determine and check if the baby has physical abnormalities. The ultrasound can determine if all parts of the baby are developing properly. In addition, this test can also confirm the gender of the baby.
  • Multiple Pregnancies. A pregnancy ultrasound can also verify multiple pregnancies. With ultrasound, your health care provider will be able to determine that number of babies that you are carrying. Moreover, this test can also determine the location of the placenta. This test can determine if you have placenta previa, which is a condition wherein the placenta is covering the cervix. This condition can cause bleeding and is considered an indication for a cesarean delivery.
  • Amount of Amniotic Fluid. The amount of amniotic fluid can also be determined through an ultrasound. If the ultrasound shows that you have too little or too much amniotic fluid, your health care practitioner may want to monitor your pregnancy with regular pregnancy ultrasounds.